Thursday, December 23, 2010

‘Tis the season

Whatever your tradition, all over the world people regard this time of year (roughly) as the time to stop and celebrate a little, each with their own different “take” on the season.

Unlike in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice often passes down here without much attention being paid. It is severely overshadowed by the hoo-hah of Christmas.

This week on the night of the 21st, in a rare coincidence, there was a lunar eclipse and the summer solstice occurring together. There were clouds covering the show here at the appointed time, although at 8:30pm I did notice a big beautiful full moon, so the sky must have cleared by then!

Nevertheless, I thought I’d share these photos, which I found on  the Daily Telegraph picture gallery. They were taken at Bondi in Sydney and in Canberra, respectively. You can see more photos of the eclipse all over the world by following the Daily Telegraph link.



Noel Kessel

Above: Noel Kessell


gary ramage

Above: Gary Ramage

To all who pass by this blog, whether this is your first visit or you are a regular blogging buddy, I wish you the very best for the season, however you choose to celebrate. May you have joy, peace and good health. Keep safe and I look forward to re-connecting in the New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December Rain & the Dobell Drawing Prize



Well the Hunters & Collectors song is about January rain, but this is December rain. Last Thursday at around 2pm, to be precise. This is the view from our patio looking across the road. Notice how dark it is?


Fortunately the post man arrived before the rain, as he was carrying these goodies that I purchased from Lisa Engelbrecht’s site. They are a 6.0mm Pilot Parallel Pen and an ink pencil. By the way, Lisa has the parallel pens available for US$10 + $4 shipping, and with the Aussie dollar so strong, that’s quite a saving on the retail price here. I thought it was a great opportunity to try something new cheaply.


With Christmas so close, I haven’t had the time or energy to create lately, but I did want to mention some of the artists I discovered while I was at the Art Gallery of NSW. The Dobell Drawing Prize is currently on show (and will be till the end of January) and with my current obsession with drawing it was great timing for me.

Suzanne Archer was the winner, and you can the winning work here, but I wanted to share the works that really said something to me. I’ve tried to find images of the actual work, but if I couldn’t then I’ve chosen something with the same flavour. You can see more of each artists work by following the link attached to their name.


It was great to see an artists book included. The work is a beautiful collection of sea shells and creatures, very sensitively drawn.

Dobell prizeDeborah Angus Book of the sea, pencil, pastel © the artist*

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any more about Angus online.


The work below by Anne Edmonds doesn’t show up well on a screen, but was a gorgeous study of light.


Anne Edmonds Climate Change: Beacons of Hope (graphite) Sydney*




Fiona Fenech Scapegoat (thread, graphite, polychrome pencil on mulberry paper)*



Michael Peck The land stood empty (india ink on archival paper)*



Catherine O’Donnell Number 19 (charcoal)*

This work was like a photo, and the idea that you could achieve such a degree of realism just with charcoal really bowled me over.

Another artist whose work really struck me was Annette Russell. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any images of recent work by her, although the link will take you to some beautiful ethereal installation works and photographs.

Finally here is a link to a review in Australian. I note that the author and I only selected two works in common. Having not seen the previous exhibition to which he refers, I can’t comment on that comparison. However, I would say that I agree that in a prize specifically for drawing, it is good to see some examples of what is particular about the medium e.g. Michael Peck’s work. That said, I also find it impossible to disregard the technical virtuosity displayed for example by Catherine O’Donnell.



*All images of other artists works were borrowed with no mal-intent, and will be removed immediately if requested by the artist or their agent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Terracotta Warriors – feats of clay

As I mentioned, last week I was away briefly. We had another short holiday in Sydney, this time with some very specific aims. We had tickets to see Uncle Vanya at the Sydney Theatre Company. The major drawcard of this play was the star-studded cast, which included Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh. In Brisbane it is extremely rare to see a cast like this, so we decided it would be worth the trip.
Secondly, as soon as I heard that China’s Entombed Warriors were coming to Sydney, I was desperate to see them. Believe it or not, they actually did visit Brisbane (back in 1988 for Expo) but I somehow missed them. Of course, that was before I had studied ceramics so I would not have appreciated the technical achievement they represent, at least not in the same way that I can now.
Clay can be a wonderful, adaptable material, but constructing life-sized sculptures is no easy task. The exhibition is well constructed, introducing the viewer to the types of works the crafts people were making before they began work on the Terracotta Army. The potters made roof tiles and vessels, which were lovely but can hardly have prepared them for this project.
Parts of the warriors are solid (the feet, lower legs and hands) while the rest of the bodies were constructed using a combination of sections formed in moulds, slabs and coil-building. It was an honour to realize I have a small part of this heritage, representing all the potters who work using the same techniques, down through not only the centuries, but the millennia. While the solid feet and legs would have been necessary to provide the strength required to support the life-size statues, they would also have presented one of the most challenging technical aspects. Solid clay areas need to be handled very skilfully when it comes to firing.

Art Gallery of NSW advertising for the exhibition of the Terracotta Army

My only disappointment was the small number of warriors on show. There are only about 8 warriors plus two chariots with horses (these are half-size). This isn’t disappointing as a display, they are still very impressive. It’s just when I looked at photos of the 1000s of warriors that were found, it seemed a bit meagre. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be confronted by the army as excavated in China, but this photosynth by Robert Sprout is amazing.

Help! Where has the year gone???

We went away for 5 nights last week and all of a sudden everything seems too busy and I feel tired and stressed. I have a list of posts with news and other stuff that I wanted to share with you, but it hasn’t happened. The list just keeps getting longer some how. On top of that, I haven’t had the chance to do anything creative since the etching workshop, and that just makes me cranky!

It’s the time of year when there’s loads of social events, preparations for Christmas and with the intermittent rain, it just keeps getting more and more humid – sucking away the energy and making a late afternoon nap a necessity. Even though I talk about the horrors of summer in Brisbane, by the time it comes around I always seem to have forgotten how debilitating it really feels.

But that is more than enough whinging – especially when everybody has their own version at this time of year. And I actually have lots of good stuff to write here.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Day 3: Moment

Just a short photo essay to accompany my Day 3 post for #reverb10, which you can see on my #reverb10 page.

It was such a pleasure to write this post that I just had to draw your attention to it!






malevich 15





























warhol 67








To see more about these wonderful works, you can search the NGA website.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

#reverb 10

Susannah Conway who came up with "The August Break", has alerted her readers to an online "event" called #reverb 10.

The idea is that the end of the year is a time to review and set your direction for the new year. And some 1400+ bloggers have joined together to conduct their personal reviews via their blogs, under the (hopefully) helpful guidance of the team at #reverb10.

I feel rather as if I've been reviewing all year long, trying to find the right direction and balance for me. Since I became ill, I spent many years studying, and then caring for my widowed mother until she died last year. So there is a huge space in my life, together with some very real limitations due to CFS, and I've been struggling somewhat to get a clear sightline on my life.

I'm very much a Big Picture Person, and I can't settle to the small detail without first having a clear view of the whole. And it feels quite unclear in certain patches. It's not that I'm seeking certainty or total control. I know that nobody has that. It's more a matter of seeing all the jig-saw pieces, even if some pieces are wildcards. There! how d'you like that mixed metaphor?

Anyway, I'm hoping that a month of review and thoughtful consideration of 2011 will provide some much needed direction. Having said that, I may not be able (or even want) to respond to every prompt. I have no idea what is in store, but I liked the first one, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I'll be posting my responses under a new page, #reverb10.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Safer etching with copper sulphate

This has been a really slow week for me again, as I’ve had to take some time to recover from attending a workshop last week-end. I have a number of things I’m keen to share with you all but I just couldn’t spend much time online, and even commenting or replying to comments has been too much.So please accept my apologies if you have posted recently and I haven’t been it touch.



Do you remember that wonderful blue liquid in the science lab at school? It was my favourite colour at the time, and I always remember it was copper sulphate. We didn’t often use it in the experiments we worked on, but it was a personal favourite (I know, who has a favourite chemical? I was a weird kid!)

So it was quite nice to find that copper sulphate can be used as an etch for printmaking and that it is one of the least toxic options.

These past few years I’ve been quite enamoured of etching, while at the same time being a bit scared of the chemicals involved. I realize that ceramics involves some nasty things too, but the thing that worries me about etching is it’s acid (ouch!) AND it gives off fumes.

I’ve been very hesitant about delving into etching because if it’s going to work for me, I need to be able to set myself up here in my home. A lot of people with CFS/ME have severe chemical sensitivities, and while it’s not really a major problem for me, perfumes have been known to make my nose run and give me a bit of a headache. I don’t need to add to my problems by exposing myself to further potential neurological damage by introducing toxins to my home.



So when I saw that Impress Printmakers were holding a workshop on Sunday on etching aluminium with copper sulphate, advertising it as a cheaper, low-toxic alternative, suitable for the home studio, I was quick to enrol. After the workshop I did some research online, particularly here and here, and discovered that the process really is low toxic. A very small amount of hydrogen gas is created, but it really isn’t considered dangerous, even inside, and I am planning to work out on our covered patio.


plates tunnel

So perhaps I can really get on my way with printmaking now. Above I’ve posted scans of the two plates I made at the workshop. They both need further work to develop some strong blacks, but it was great fun getting this far. I’m actually really drawn to the plates themselves, and can see they may become artworks/book covers themselves. Has anybody else tried etching with copper sulphate?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creative for a Second…or Two

Just under two weeks ago a parcel arrived containing Journal #5, one of the journals travelling the world as part of Creative for a Second.
If you haven’t heard, this is the second time this project, which is for people with CFS/ME (PWCFS/ME) has run. If you follow the link above you can look through the first edition which was published through the print-on-demand service issuu.
And below is a video of Kirrliy Anderson who initiated the whole project. She is speaking at the launch of the tour which the first project made.

To keep the project rolling along, once the journal is in your hands you can only keep it for two weeks. In order to work quickly and also because I wanted to make something that was “recognisable” as my work, I decided to dig into what I call my “collage box”.  This is where I keep test prints from previous works, a stash of Japanese papers and a few very select pieces of ephemera I’ve collected.
I began by physically putting different imagery together and when I had made a selection, I moved onto the computer which allowed me to work with the same imagery but to alter the scale and translucency.
I was aiming to make work that spoke about the experience of living with CFS, without being blatant and in a way which incorporated both the loss and grief, as well as the hope and potential. Below are the results.


I really enjoyed this process and found that there is a lot more work to be done with the imagery that I’ve developed in the past. It was very satisfying to bring together some of the work I did for my masters with more recent work. It also seems that this is a productive and effective way to work when I am quite low on energy.
There’s quite a lot that I could say about the imagery, connections that I can see and interpretations that could be made, but I think I’ll let the work speak for itself.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Experimenting with Hilke’s Headbands

I’ve been continuing to test different bindings for my friend’s wedding album. I’m looking for something which will allow me to use an open spine with exposed stitching, but still provide enough support to the album which will be quite heavy.

I think I will need to use some cords, but while I wait for Keith Smith’s third volume with the instructions to arrive in the post, I thought I would try some headbands. I popped over to Buechertiger’s site, thinking I would need to buy her self published book on coptic headbands, but I found that on her blog there is a detailed post with step-by-step photos explaining how to  make a “Simple Two Coloured Coptic Headband”. Thank-you for your generosity Hilke! This is much appreciated as I haven’t really been sure how much I like the look of headbands.

As you can see, they turned out quite nicely, and I think I can say I do like them now! And if you look closely you will see that they are in fact two colours, but they are very similar shades, as I thought the pattern on the fabric was complex enough.

Watson-Will: celtic and coptic binding with headbands


I also tried out a couple of other new things with this book. I made my very first book fabric, backing it with tissue using wheat starch paste. Inspired by Paper Chipmunk’s recent successes, I took my method from this video on youtube, but don’t be misled by the ease and expertise you see here! What a kerfuffle! Talk about “paper wrestling”!*

I was amazed when later that evening I ended up with a beautifully stiffened sheet of fabric which covered the boards really nicely. I can definitely see the difference (previously I used an acid free glue stick to attach the fabric directly onto the book board).

I also used a different paper for the book. I was thinking of a book for writing, rather than drawing or painting, and so I chose Mohawk Superfine Text. It is beautiful paper, but not as strong as the cartridge, watercolour paper or BFK I’ve used in the past. As a result I tore one of the signatures, and marked some of the others at the top when working the headbands. I think I might leave this paper until I am more proficient with these particular bindings. A good lesson learnt.


* See Claire Beynon’s poem “Paper Wrestling”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Portrait of a Studio

On Sunday I went to see “Self Portrait”, the Studio West End group show that I mentioned a couple of posts ago.

In 1998 artists Adele Outteridge and Wim de Vos established Studio West End, from where they offer various workshops ranging through book arts, printmaking, painting and mixed media.

Wim has developed extensive skills working with perspex and the material has become somewhat of a signature material for both him and the studio. Adele and Wim create such a welcoming environment and have so much to offer, that many of those who come to study choose to stay and develop a lengthy relationship with the studio, and with Adele and Wim.

The works in the show demonstrated the wide and varied range of skills and talent nurtured at the studio. There were 25 artists represented and the photos posted here are simply the ones that appealed to me personally.

Studio West End recently launched a website, which you can find here. Wim told me that they will be documenting the show in full on the site soon. In the mean time, the gallery on the site has works by Adele and Wim, plus a number of photos of cute cats!!

Adele Outteridge

Above: Adele Outteridge


Bronwyn Estaban

Above: Bronwyn Estaban

Fiona Medhurst

Above: Fiona Medhurst

Graham Bligh double

Above: Graham Bligh

Philomena Drake

Above: Philomena Drake

Sharon Smith

Above: Sharon Smith

Sheryl Whimp

Above: Sheryl Whimp

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

6 degrees=5 artists=1 great show

On Sunday I headed off to White Canvas Gallery in the Valley to see the show 6 degrees. On display was the work of five female Brisbane artists, connected by their common mentor Majena Mafe. I was so glad that I made the effort, as this was really one of the strongest shows I’ve seen in a long time.

All the work had a powerful and positive feminine energy, supported by layers of conceptual rigour. It felt as if the artists had delved deeply within themselves to create works that were soulful, emotional, complex and yet spoke with clarity about their individual concerns.

Kate Cooke’s sewn mesh sculpture and evocative shadows spoke of the constraints placed on women, and strongly referenced drawing with its use of line and tone.


Above: Kate Cooke


Mela Fitzgibbon embroidered pointed feminist commentary on gorgeous pink silk, which cascaded luxuriously from the wall.


Natasha’s brightly coloured and multi-layered paintings were rich with detail and time spent devoted to the recording of personal narrative.

Above: Natasha Narain


Sandra’s feminine basket forms were wrapped in fleece like a mother’s arms. At first glance they speak of holding in a way that is sublimely gentle and nurturing, but on closer inspection questions are raised. Is that tendril penetrating the basket form? Is this a loving or menacing embrace?

Above: Sandra Pearce


Ann Russell created amazing bricolage, exploring mythical worlds and characters, like the one above, Ariadne'’s Orb. You can see Ariadne, the spider if you click on the photo to enlarge it. I’m not often a fan of bricolage, but these pieces were constructed so sensitively while still with a definite nod to outsider art, that they managed to be both fun and beautiful as well as having a story to tell.

The artists have also put together an extensive catalogue of their work, 6 degrees, available on Blurb, which is a great idea I think.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Openings: a confession

There were two openings on last night that I had hoped to attend.

I actually don’t really enjoy openings that much. For starters, it’s a terrible way to see the art because everyone is so crammed in. Secondly, there’s the speeches (yawn) and finally there’s the small talk. Even worse, if you don’t actually know anyone, you stand around, nursing your drink and trying to look comfortable, thoughtful, approachable or whatever!

I know this makes me sound like a terrible grouch, but hey! I’m an artist, and I spend long stretches of time on my own. We can’t all be so adaptable! (I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this, am I???)

But it’s not just a matter of preference and avoiding situations that are a bit challenging. If it was, I would be firmer with myself and do the professional thing. The fact is that by evening I am usually pretty tired and the last thing I feel like doing is dressing up and going out. Preparing and eating dinner and then getting ready for bed is often challenging enough!

I’m gradually accepting that this is just the way I am, but I do try to make it to openings of friends, because I do understand how important these occasions are, and how much that type of support is appreciated.

All that being said, I did hope to get to these two openings last night. But I didn’t. It wasn’t completely slackness though. On Thursday I had to have a filling and although it all went smoothly, I was rather nervous because the dentist was new to me, plus having suffered TMJ syndrome, my neck was complaining about having to bear tipping back and holding my mouth open for half an hour. I had a vague headache and I was pretty tired – and I have promised myself that I would be a lot kinder to myself.

So, I didn’t go. But I will be going along to the shows in the next week and I’ll tell you all about them. Until then, in case you’re nearby, here’s the details.

Both shows are group shows and will include a variety of works. First off is 6 Degrees, with artist Sandra Pearce, friend and fellow Impress Printmakers member.

6 degrees

6 degrees back

The second show is the Studio West End group show entitled Self Portrait. This will showcase the work of 24 artists, led by Adele Outteridge and Wim de Vos.

selfport back

And despite what I’ve said about openings in general, I am really looking forward to seeing the shows.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Learning New Bindings

This is my latest book. The paper on the cover is handmade mulberry that I bought in Sydney at Shop Kraft. Inside the cover I used paper from Amazing Paper, which I think is hairy abaca paper, but I’m not 100% on that. Amanda Watson-Will


The binding is waxed linen thread over leather tapes. I taught myself how it is done, and as such take full responsibility for any mistakes or misinterpretations of the  instructions. I used two books to guide me, reading Keith Smith’s first volume as an initial introduction, but following the lovely diagrams and instructions in Cover to Cover, by Shereen LaPlantz.

It’s not too bad for a first attempt, although the stitches aren’t as even as I would like them to be. I found the signatures needed a bit more juggling and manoeuvring than with a coptic, which probably implies I was doing it all wrong!

I’m trying out a few different bindings at the moment as I have some books with clay covers planned. These will be heavier than usual covers, and so I need to be sure the binding will support the extra weight.

During the week, as part of the process of getting ready to make the clay covers, I recycled some old porcelain clay that had dried out. It’s nearly two years since I finished my masters and I haven’t done any work with clay since then.

The dried clay had to be broken up into small pieces and soaked in water (slaking) until a thick, wet, sticky mass is created. Then it is set out on plaster to have the moisture sucked back out, till it reaches just the right level of hydration and plasticity for handling.

This whole process takes a number of days and wow! was that physically-demanding! I was rather amazed to think how much of this sort of thing I used to be able to do. It’s a bit scary to think about. In future, I think I might just go right ahead and buy a lovely new workable bag of clay and forget about recycling. My energy is too precious!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Hannah Bertram in Melbourne

If you’re in Melbourne before October 16th, be sure to get along and see Hannah’s latest works at Dianne Tanzer Gallery. The show is the culmination of her project for 2010, The Silence of Becoming and Disappearing. 

Hannah Bertram 

Work by Hannah Bertram

If you can’t make it to the gallery, you can see the photos of the sublime works Hannah made in private homes throughout the year on her website.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The ruling pen



I’ve been trying to work out how to use a ruling pen. In case it’s new to you too, this is actually a drafting tool, and I learned about it in the calligraphy book I mentioned a few posts back.

It took me a while to work out how to use it at all. Eventually I did find a blog post explaining that it should be viewed as two nibs and that ink or gouache can be loaded into the curved nib from a small brush. The screw is used to adjust the width between the nibs. Close together will give a thin line, while further apart gives a wider line. (Unlike the way I used it right back at the beginning of the month, wide apart to achieve double lines. Altho’ I guess this is ok too – maybe I’ve invented a new use!)

In the book, Denise Lach talks about varying the speed of writing, the tilt of the pen and the smoothness/roughness of the surface in order to create varied effects. I bought a small pad of canvas paper, thinking this surface might help me to get the gorgeous splattering effect shown in the book. As you can see from my page of attempts below, it’s not straightforward!


Above:No splatters!


Next I tried writing on some rough watercolour paper and towards the end of my efforts, by holding the pen quite loosely, I managed one little splatter, but not much!

So if anyone can offer any more specific advice on how the splatter effect is achieved, I’d really love to hear from you!